Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder’s Designed for Hi-Fi Living: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America (MIT Press) is a handsomely illustrated volume devoted not to the incontestable classics of the LP era but to the more utilitarian margins of the catalogue — background music, instructional records, travel albums, and the like. Some highlights are Music to Paint By, Music for a German Dinner at Home, and, of course, March Around the Breakfast Table. (Is it advisable to march with a live toaster?) Many of the record covers have that unreal, mannequin quality typical of fifties and sixties advertising, allied with blatantly sexist and vaguely racist tableaux. But some reach into the higher echelons of graphic art: Saul Bass’s design for Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color is so lovely to behold that listening to the record seems superfluous. In the same vein, I recommend two recent Taschen volumes: Jazz Covers and Alex Steinweiss, the latter the inventor and undisputed master of the album-cover genre.
*borrowed from Flanders and Swann

from Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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